Chris Lytle could make a lot of excuses for his Ultimate Fighting Championship losses. He could attribute those losses, which account for nine of his 15 appearances in the Octagon, to the fact that he’s never been able to train full-time except for a six-week stint on The Ultimate Fighter. Or he could rationalize them away as consequences of chronic instability that saw his Integrated Fighting team lose its training facilities half a dozen times in the last four years. But he doesn’t. And he won’t.
“I don’t think he thinks it’s relevant,” says Pat McPherson. The trainer has peered over the side of the Octagon like a mustachioed Kilroy before the start of nearly three dozen UFC fights but he’s not a household name, doesn’t head up a massive fight team, hasn’t authored any books, and he hasn’t hosted any instructional DVDs. He, like Lytle, just loves the fight game. “He fights ‘cos he loves fighting,” McPherson says. “Obviously there’s money in it now but back when he first started the money wasn’t there so people fought because they enjoyed fighting. When you do that I don’t think there’s external pressure to make excuses for why you lost.”
(Props to Michelle Pemberton.)
Back when Lytle first started, people who could tell an armbar from an omoplata called the sport No Holds Barred fighting. And the only NHB fight team in Lytle’s native Indianapolis was a group of roughnecks who trained under Jason Godsey in a pole barn on the outskirts of town. Guys came and went, and the team became nomadic, moving from gym to gym when relationships soured or bills stopped getting paid.
Lytle met McPherson in late 2004 when both were training at the same boxing gym in Indianapolis. McPherson, then a patrolman for the Indianapolis Police Department, wasn’t looking for work as a trainer. But Lytle and the fighter’s then-manager Keith Palmer hit it off with the boxer-cop and by Lytle’s Feb. 2006 win over Ross Mason at Cage Rage 15, McPherson was a fixture in his corner.
(Det. Pat McPherson. Props to Frank Espich.)
Four years later the trainer is a detective in the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department’s financial crimes division and Lytle is still a firefighter in Warren Township on the east side of Indianapolis. The money is better but the motivations are the same for Lytle and McPherson both; they love fighting. And in Lytle’s case, fighting loves him back.
“Lights Out”’s UFC prospects were dim when he received the call to join the cast of The Ultimate Fighter 4: The Comeback. But after losing back-to-back fights to Matt Serra and Matt Hughes, Lytle revived his career as a fan-favorite slugger, the kind of guy who can carry nine UFC losses on his record without losing sleep for fear of being cut by the organization, the kind of guy – win, lose, or draw – the UFC uses to entertain fans in new markets. After three fights in England and one in Ireland, UFC 110 will mark the fifth time that Lytle will fight on an overseas card for the promotion. His trainer doesn’t think that’s coincidence.
“He’s everything that’s good about MMA. He’s disciplined, he’s mentally strong, there’s not a lot of ostentatious behavior. He’s a fighter,” says McPherson. “The UFC knows he’s got quite a base, I think, around the world. People appreciate that warrior spirit. He’s not doing anything fancy. It’s very honest and I think people see that.”